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Bar Association hosts heated judges forum

The three candidates for District Court 1 judge squared off Friday, July 16, at a Clallam County Bar Association candidates' forum, giving a glimpse into a race that has the potential to get ugly.

In the opening statements two-term incumbent Rick Porter responded to accusations he moved opponent Tim Davis campaign sign, violating state law.

Anna Shimko, of Port Angeles, said Porter moved the sign from where it stood along Laurel Street to next to a hedge in her yard where it was less visible.

The allegation is being investigated by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office to avoid a conflict of interest.

At the candidates' forum, Porter said his opponents didn't have any concrete solutions of their own so he thought they were likely to try to discredit him.

"Here we are 12 days before ballots go out," he said, calling the accusations an "orchestrated smear campaign."

While looking pointedly at Davis, Porter said he has "never been ashamed of anyone in this profession until today."

Davis, originally from England, said he doesn't feel comfortable responding while it is still under investigation.

Challengers Pam Lindquist and Davis said Porter was disrespectful and unprofessional as a judge.

Davis, a former assistant prosecutor and now an assistant attorney general, said people are demeaned, picked on, made to feel worthless and bullied when they appear in Porter's courtroom.

Lindquist, a private practice attorney with experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney, gave an example of such behavior at the request of an audience member.

"I've seen a lot," Lindquist said before launching into an anecdote. "Probably too much."

One time there was a young girl who had a ticket for driving without insurance, Lindquist said. The girl was driving her grandfather's truck at the time and brought his proof of insurance card in to court. Porter saw the girl's name was not on the card and asked how she had gotten to court that day, Lindquist said.

"She said she drove," Lindquist said. "He asked her to give him her keys and call a family member to come and get her."

Lindquist said it didn't matter that the girl wasn't on the insurance card and it was wrong for Porter to hold her "hostage."

Davis said Porter's courtroom always was acceptable and pleasant when he was there but he has heard many stories about 40-minute-long lectures for one defendant, people ending up in tears and attorneys being run out of the courtroom.

Porter said he doesn't have "that kind of time" to lecture one defendant for 40 minutes and that the stories were nothing but "hearsay."

"I have never held anybody hostage," he said.

Porter said he tried several times to give Lindquist constructive feedback when she appeared in his courtroom and he felt she wasn't properly representing her clients.

"I'm sorry she took it personally," he said.

He conceded he is a tough judge, but it's a reputation he is proud of.

"That's what District Court needs," he said.

The candidates also discussed the Pay to Appear program, which allows offenders to pay their fines over a period of time or through public service. Porter touts the program as successful but his opponents say it costs too much to run and is ineffective, filling up the county jail with people who can't pay their bill.

Lindquist said she has a well-thought-out collections policy and would send out notices and make phone calls to offenders who were behind on payments.

Porter disagreed with her proposal and said it wouldn't work to call the 7,000 people who participate in Pay to Appear each month.

"Saying we can't send out a notice but we can send a warrant for their arrest is ridiculous," Lindquist responded.

Davis said if elected he would evaluate the program and be open to new solutions.

"You would see noticeable and real change if I am elected," he said.

Amanda Winters can be reached at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

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